Dave Mustaine finally seems to have found some peace. As the acerbic singer and guitarist for the legendary thrash band Megadeth, Mustaine has seen his share of turmoil. Whether he was feuding with other metal musicians (most famously with his former band, Metallica) or having brushes with death as the result of his excessive drug use, Mustaine was always in the thick of it. Now, clean and sober for years, Mustaine looks ahead more than he looks back.
“I’ve paid my dues,” Mustaine says over the phone from Megadeth’s recording studio in San Diego. “I’m lucky to be able to do something that a lot of people can’t, and I don’t have to break my neck anymore to feel like I matter.”
Indeed Mustaine is beyond having to prove himself. Megadeth has sold more than 25 million records worldwide, with five consecutive platinum albums and seven consecutive Grammy nominations. The band’s newest release, Endgame, debuted last September at No. 9 on the Billboard 200. The album’s blistering precision demonstrates that Mustaine’s guitar skills stand undiminished.
When the band kicks off its tour here in Spokane, though, they won’t be showcasing Endgame — they’ll be paying homage to one of Megadeth’s classic albums: 1990’s Rust in Peace, a record that’s been classified side-by-side with Black Sabbath’s Paranoid and Iron Maiden’s The Number of the Beast as one of the most influential metal albums of all time.
“With the 20th anniversary of Rust, I wanted to do a tour and give the fans a chance to hear some of the old hits,” Mustaine says.
Megadeth will be joined by fellow thrashers Exodus and Testament — two other bands that emerged from California’s burgeoning metal scene in the ’80s. Megadeth will play Rust in Peace from front to back, interspersed among selections from the group’s extensive canon.
“We have a huge catalog,” Mustaine says. “There are certain songs we just have to play. How can we not play ‘Symphony of Destruction?’ How can we not play ‘Wake Up Dead?’ It’s a good problem to have.”
Rust in Peace, like all of Megadeth’s albums, deals in lyrical themes that focus on the grim side of human nature. Politics are often cited as a major source of inspiration for Mustaine’s songwriting, but he claims it goes deeper than that.
“A lot of people say I write about politics,” Mustaine says. “But what I really write about is human emotions and how those emotions manifest themselves in our politics.
“I can act like none of it matters, or can sing about things that are important to me,” he says. “I’ve always been more inclined to speak my mind, and we’re privileged in this country to have a right to do that.”
Over Megadeth’s long career, Mustaine has been witness to settings where his outspoken nature is unwelcome. As the band has circled the globe, they’ve played shows in several less-than-welcoming locales.
“I was told in Russia by rifle-toting security guards that if I said anything negative about how they were handling the kids that they would pull the plug on the whole thing,” he says. “I saw a kid get his face split open by a rifle butt, blood everywhere.
“We may have small-penised, big-armed, steroid-chomping security guards at shows here in the States, but at least we don’t have armed guards hauling kids out into the woods and beating them half to death.”
Megadeth’s music, he says, continues to be a reflection of the world’s dark and twisted side.
“I sing about reality,” he says. “We live in emotionally charged times and a lot of people are not comfortable with that and would like me to shut the hell up.
“But I’ll keep writing about what I feel.”
Megadeth with Testament and Exodus at the Knitting Factory, Monday, March 1, at 6 pm. Tickets: $39.50. Visit ticketswest.com or call 325-SEAT.